A Maori language version of Nga Tama Toa: The Price of Citizenship, has been launched in Gisborne.

The launch was held on Saturday as part of the events which celebrate the opening of C Company Memorial House in the city.

The book, Nga Tama Toa: He Toto Heke, He tipare here ki te ukaipo, outlines the story of the 28th Maori Battalion's C Company and is one of the largest Maori language publications in the last century, on a similar scale to He Pataka Kupu the Maori Language dictionary, and the Bible.

It has taken a group of Maori language experts from the Eastern Bay of Plenty to Gisborne region, convened by the book's author Monty Soutar (Ngati Awa, Ngati Porou) five years to translate the work.

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It is intended to be both an example of quality Maori language based on the iwi dialect of the region and a resource for language learners.

"The Company's history is a strong unifying concept in the Tairawhiti, bringing together the iwi of the region, so it was not difficult to persuade the translators to take part," Dr Soutar said.

"They were all related to men in C Company and all volunteered their time."

The 14 translators were supported by a wider panel of reo experts including some of the remaining C Company veterans. Those involved included Sir Tamati and Lady Te Koingo Reedy, Dr Apirana Mahuika, Oho and Willie Kaa, Bill Maxwell, Muriwai Jones, Tussie Butler-Gamble, Kahu Stirling, Lewis Moeau, Whairiri Ngata, Ethel MacPherson, Rutene Irwin, Wi Pohatu, Nolan Raihania and the late Dr Koro Dewes.

Since 2009, 12 hui were held throughout the C Company rohe where the translators presented their work publicly to learners and aficionados of the Tairawhiti tribal dialect. At each hui there was an opportunity for the translators to read their translations interspersed with discussions (in English and Maori) by both the panel of experts and the hui on a range of grammatical, dialect, vocabulary and war-related topics.

"The te reo version provides perspective on the narrative on citizenship. For some it's Sir Apirana Ngata's homily, but for the many who worked on it, it's an exceptional collaboration of minds, and hearts," said Dr Soutar.

"This is a significant publication for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Nga Tamatoa Trust and te reo Maori non-fiction publishing."

Dr Soutar wrote the English version while fellow in Maori History at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in 2004-2005. He returned to the Ministry in 2011 to co-ordinate the 28th Maori Battalion website, encouraging more Maori language use on the site. He is currently writing a history of Maori in the First World War for the Ministry.

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- Dr Soutar is also helping research a similar book about the B Company Maori Battalion. He attended a hui at Tamatekapua meeting house in August with Te Arawa's three remaining Company B veterans where he shared his findings.